To explore options for simple, safe, and compact chemical reactors that preserve wanted metastable initial products from sequential unwanted reactions, academic and industrial researchers have tried to repurpose reciprocating piston equipment or an “engine-like” design to be used as a chemical reactor. Piston reactors offer the benefit of achieving very high temperature and pressure conditions at very short and defined residence times. Such conditions offer promise for enhanced performance for several chemical conversions. This paper provides a review of the published literature and patents in the field of piston reactors to provide an overview of the current state-of-the-art. The review covers multiple aspects of piston reactors and their applications, reactor design options and their operation, catalyst and ignition placement, tested reactions, experimental setups as well as modeling and simulation. Several research gaps are highlighted as a motivation for future research in the field. To help interested readers into the topic, basic concepts and fundamentals of piston reactors are provided.